Astronaut and Artist
It was with great sadness that I read about the passing of Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon. It brought back some fond memories of the time I spent with him. I had been hired to write a script based on Apollo 7 Astronaut Walt Cunningham's book, The All American Boys and was doing research to make sure that I got him right in the film.
He was such a great guy -- funny and very generous with his time. It was fun to get to visit him in his studio surrounded by his amazing paintings of his moon adventure.
On my first visit I remember making my way down a narrow corridor lined with cages. Empty cages. I wasn't sure what was going on until I heard the sound of barking. Sure enough, when I turned the corner I saw several dogs.
Alan's studio at the time was the dining room of a townhouse. By then he had divorced his first wife, who was also in my script. I hoped he wouldn't mind talking about her. That's why he was in a townhouse instead of the large home they had owned together.
What with the large canvases that he was working on and with more dog cages stacked in the corner, it was a crowded room. He explained that his new wife, Leslie, was into dog breeding.
I was there to talk to him about the book and to get a feel for the personal lives of the astronauts. I needed to fill in the gaps in Cunningham's books so that I could make my script richer in meaning and to get the dialog right. I was looking for speech patterns and personality to use in creating a story about the exciting days of the Apollo Mission.
Even if he hadn't been an astronaut, one would immediately recognize Bean as being special. He was an aviator. There is something special about them. A little cocky. Definitely proud. They are men who have flown to heaven and back -- they have felt that joy that only wings can give you.
Of course, Alan was even more special. he had walked on the moon and lived to paint the images that have become iconic. American astronauts on the moon. The American flag planted on the moon.
Over my desk is an autographed poster of of one of his beautiful paintings. Months later when I had finished the script and we talked about how I had portrayed him, he told me that he was happy with one of the lines I had given him: Soar high and reach for the stars.
He was an All American Hero and a great guy.